jiu jitsu vs karate

Jiu Jitsu vs Karate: Breaking Down Martial Arts

Jiu Jitsu and Karate are forms of martial arts that people quickly lump together. In reality, the two martial arts differ in many respects — particularly in their techniques, styles, and forms. Distinguishing Jiu Jitsu vs Karate is important, especially when you’re selecting which art to study. 

We’re here to put any confusion about the two arts to sleep! 

Read our martial arts breakdown to know where to land “the chop” on the Karate vs Jiu Jitsu debate! Learn more about the differences, similarities, and where to go after looking up “Jiu Jitsu near me!” 

Karate vs Jiu Jitsu: Similarities Beyond the Gi

Karate and Jiu Jitsu are different, but these two martial arts do share some similarities. Besides the Gi, Jiu Jitsu and Karate share the following characteristics: 

Both are Japanese in Origin

The earliest accounts of Karate date back to the late 1300s when Chinese martial artists migrated to the Ryukyu Islands of Japan. During this time, the Chinese migrants taught their fighting system to the locals as part of the early cultural exchange between China and Japan. 

As time passed, the locals developed a system of empty-hand combat that incorporated many of the techniques taught by the Chinese. The new fighting style emerged as a martial art that focused on strikes using the hands, elbows, knees, and feet: Karate. 

Jiu Jitsu — or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu — may have come from Brazil in the 1920s, but it’s also Japanese in origin. In the 1920s, Mitsuyo Meeda — a renowned Judoka — came to Brazil to teach Judo. He taught Judo to a group of Brazilians; one of them was Carlos Gracie. Carlos Gracie then taught his style of fighting, which the world knows today as BJJ. 

Both Martial Arts Have Ranking Systems

Any person who trains in both martial arts starts as a white belt. After some time on the mats, athletes of either martial art eventually reach belt ranks that signify the hard years of work they’ve put in. Martial artists in both disciplines can become black belts, meaning that they can teach classes and compete at the highest levels.

Jiu Jitsu vs Karate: The Differences

Despite their similarities, a world of differences separates BJJ from Karate. The two martial arts differ in their techniques, styles, and forms.


BJJ places a heavy emphasis on grappling. In particular, BJJ’s techniques include joint locks, chokes, holds, takedowns, throws, and reversals. This has a lot to do with where BJJ originated — Judo. As a result, strikes aren’t present in a BJJ competition or match. 

By contrast, Karate uses little to no grappling moves. The only grappling move present in this martial art is a version of the hip throw. 

Instead of grappling moves, Karate has an array of striking techniques. In competition, practitioners score points by landing strikes on designated parts of the body like the chest and face. 


BJJ has two styles: classic BJJ and combat Jiu Jitsu. The classic version of BJJ is the more mainstream of the two, involving no strikes in matches. Combat Jiu Jitsu was a recent addition to the sport, introduced by the rubber guard master himself, Eddie Bravo. Combat Jiu Jitsu allows opponents to deliver open palm strikes but only on the ground. Beyond that, all the other rules of classic BJJ apply.   

Since its systemization in Okinawa, Karate has specialized into different styles. The most popular are Shotokan, Goju-Ryu, and Kynukushinkai. 

Shotokan Karate was the first style to become mainstream. It’s a style of Karate that’s famous for its long paused positions in Katas. It’s also the only style of Karate where practitioners learn some joint locks. However, because of Karate’s sporting rules, athletes cannot use these locks in competition. 

Goju-Ryu is one of the original styles of Karate from Okinawa. It’s famous for being one of the first styles of full-contact Karate. Its full-contact style has been used in military combatives and even mixed martial arts. Just ask guys like Rob Whittaker and Gunnar Nelson!

Speaking of MMA, Kyunkushinkai Karate is another full-contact form of Karate. The difference it has with Goju Ryu is that Kyunkushinkai Karate has techniques that allow fighters to close distance during a match. For great examples of how the style works in a fight, check out fighters like GSP and the “Notorious One” himself. 


Karate has two forms — each with its own event or competition. First, there’s the Kata. The Kata varies among different Karate styles. However, one thing that ties them all together is that they’re all a sequence of moves and poses. These moves and poses simulate positions and movements a practitioner performs in a real match or combat situation. Some Katas have long pauses, and others — like the ones in Kyunkushinkai — have faster transitions between moves. 

The second form of Karate is the Kumite. Kumite is another word for “sparring,” but it’s also the term that refers to full-contact Karate matches. 

Kumite matches take place between two practitioners. To win, a Karate practitioner must score enough points, knock the opponent out, or cause enough damage to prompt a doctor’s interference. 

When it comes to BJJ, the two forms are Gi and No-gi. Gi BJJ requires athletes to train and compete wearing the Gi. No-gi BJJ, on the other hand, follows the same rules as Gi BJJ. However, in no-gi BJJ, practitioners train and compete without wearing the Gi. Usually, the articles of clothing they wear are shorts, leggings or spats, and rashguards

Bring Your Game!

The Jiu Jitsu vs Karate confusion is easy to grasp on an abstract level, but if you want to experience BJJ and how it differs from Karate, the best thing to do is try it out. After all, experience is the best sensei, right? If you’ve been looking up “Brazilian Jiu Jitsu near me,” look no further. Develop your skills at Granite Bay Jiu Jitsu by trying out a week on us!